Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fire Festivals

BUT THE SEASON at which these fire-festivals have been most generally held all over Europe is the summer solstice, that is Midsummer Eve (the twenty-third of June) or Midsummer day (the twenty-fourth of June). A faint tinge of Christianity has been given to them by naming Midsummer Day after St. John the Baptist, but we cannot doubt that the celebration dates from a time long before the beginning of our era.

The summer solstice, or Midsummer Day, is the great turning-point in the sun’s career, when, after climbing higher and higher day by day in the sky, the luminary stops and thenceforth retraces his steps down the heavenly road. Such a moment could not but be regarded with anxiety by primitive man so soon as he began to observe and ponder the courses of the great lights across the celestial vault; and having still to learn his own powerlessness in face of the vast cyclic changes of nature, he may have fancied that he could help the sun in his seeming decline—could prop his failing steps and rekindle the sinking flame of the red lamp in his feeble hand.

In some such thoughts as these the midsummer festivals of our European peasantry may perhaps have taken their rise. Whatever their origin, they have prevailed all over this quarter of the globe, from Ireland on the west to Russia on the east, and from Norway and Sweden on the north to Spain and Greece on the south. According to a mediƦval writer, the three great features of the midsummer celebration were the bonfires, the procession with torches round the fields, and the custom of rolling a wheel. - Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough

In ancient times, midsummer's day was an occasion to pay homage to water, fire and plants. It was also a time to cleanse one's soul as well as to celebrate the summer solstice. However, over time, this holiday has lost most of its sacral meaning and only its various festive elements remain.

In England, people used to celebrate St. John's Eve by setting great bonfires after sunset. This was known as 'setting the watch' and men, women and children would jump through these bonfires for luck. The streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cresset lamps set on poles as they went from one bonfire to the next. These wandering, garlanded bands were called a 'marching watch'. Often they were attended by morris dancers, and traditional players dressed as a unicorn, a dragon, and six hobby-horse riders.

In northern countries such as Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the summer solstice is still celebrated on this day. Traditionally, the evening festivities last the entire night, because the Sun does not set at this time in far northern latitudes. During this celebration men wear crowns of oak leaves and women put on wreaths of wild flowers. A bonfire is built, around which the night's activities take place.

In Sweden, flowers are an important aspect of the Midsummer festival. Girls and women weave wreaths of flowers to wear in their hair for the day. Wreaths or bouquets are traditionally made with seven or nine different types of wildflowers. Homes are similarly decorated: a flower wreath may be hung from the ceiling to bring blessing to the house and a pair of young birch branches put at the front door. -

When the Papacy sent its emissaries over Europe, towards the end of the sixth century, to gather in the Pagans into its fold, this festival was found in high favour in many countries. What was to be done with it? Were they to wage war with it? No. This would have been contrary to the famous advice of Pope Gregory I, that, by all means they should meet the Pagans half-way, and so bring them into the Roman Church. The Gregorian policy was carefully observed; and so Midsummer-day, that had been hallowed by Paganism to the worship of Tammuz, was incorporated as a sacred Christian festival in the Roman calendar. The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop

Masonic history records the beginning of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster as being organized there on June 24, 1717, by a combined meeting of four local area Lodges. One of Lodges among the original 'Four Old Lodges' met there, assuming the name of the ale-house.

The famous meeting of June 24, 1717 (birthday of St. John the Baptist) was the designated as the Annual Assembly and Feast. Three additional annual meetings were subsequently specified by the original General Regulations; one on Michaelmas (in September), one just after Christmas (December 27 - birthday of St. John the Evangelist), and another on Lady Day (Annunciation Day, March 25). There is no record that these specified meetings actually occurred. - Phoenix Masonry

(The Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple''s) origins date back to the so called "Arginy Renaissance", a mystical experience of June 12, 1952, when French esoteric author Jacques Breyer (1922-1996) and two companions were contacted by secret "Masters of the Temple" and asked to establish a "Templar Renaissance". The "Renaissance" eventually materialized -- after many years of esoteric activity by Breyer and his friends -- into the OSTS, established on June 24, 1966 and incorporated under Monaco law in 1967. Monaco was selected because the Grand Master hand-picked by Breyer for the OSTS was Jean-Louis Marsan (1923-1982), a Monaco socialite and a friend of Prince Ranier III. - CESNUR

A couple interesting footnotes from history:

1374 – A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.

Sounds like the good burghers had a run-in with some ergot. And, surprising no one...

1664 – The colony of New Jersey is founded.


  1. Chris,
    I've been thinking a lot about the fire festivals lately. I noticed that the Times Square fire "bomb" non-event happened to coincide with Beltane and the same guy, who at first ran from authorities, suddenly pleads guilty and gives another boogedy-boo speech about more attacks coming on the Solstice.

    Also, there's something about this BP thing that seems ritualistic. The company with the green sun logo (representing the Green Man) is dying amidst this special time of year. I'm waiting to see if a White Queen steps forward out of this (Queen Beatrix's Shell?) and "revives" the Green Man.
    A reader, Eleleth, on my blog pointed out that the spill started with a fire on April 20th - which is equivalent to May 1st 1776 in the Julian Calendar.

    You're more knowledgeable on these rituals than I, so I toss you my musings - hoping they are useful in finding some answers.

  2. It's really hard to say for sure, Alan. April 20 is certainly a very heavy date for that to have happened- Hitler's bday, Columbine, Pope Clement's assassination by the Templars, Apollo 16 landing and on and on. Now it's being drilled into our heads with the 420 thing.

    The BP thing stinks like hell, but I can't figure out what the purpose of it could possibly be if it is some bizarre setup.

    The green sun represents the Green Sun, as we've seen...

  3. CK, would be interested to hear your take on the Glastonbury Festival here in the UK this weekend in relation to the themes discussed above.
    Some serious synchromystic shenanigans happening right now!!

  4. Thanks for the invitation to share ideas.

    While this may seem like a random stream of consciousness, in the context of your article I feel that this a pretty decent list of references and keywords for a new thread...pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that may hopefully trigger some synchronicities...and I'm hoping you and others can see the bigger picture!

    Culturally and musically...
    Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, 'the world's greatest festival'- the NME, Worthy Farm, Pilton, 900 acres, 175,000 people, 40 year anniversary, Pilton, Glastonbury Tor, the Pyramid Stage, the Glade, the Leftfield, Kings Meadow, Workers Beer Company, Network Recycling, Flagtopia, Winston Churchill, Arabella Churchill, Bella's Bridge, Julien Temple,
    Nicolas Roeg, David Puttnam, Sir Paul McCartney, Richard Branson,
    Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Children's World charity, flooding, underground reservoirs,

    Pet Shop Boys, Snoop Dogg, U2, Gorillaz, Muse, Stevie Wonder, Faithless, Orbital, Groove Armada, George Clinton, Oxfam, Greenpeace, Wateraid, Prince Charles, Prince's William and Harry, the World Cup, England vs. Germany, Radio One, Live Nation, Clearchannel, Jay Z, David Bowie, Primal Scream, Radiohead, The Smiths, T Rex, New Order, Bruce Springsteen, Oasis, Fairport Convention and all the artists that have played over years.

  5. Historically and mythically...
    the Sweet Track, Isle of Apples, Ynys-witrin, Gwyn ap Nudd, Beli Mawr, Llys Don, Llud, Gorfannon, Annowre, Modron, King Evelake, Brighde, Rhiannon the White Mare, ancient seat of kings, grail quest, paganism, the Hollow Hills, Vale of Avalon, Camelot, Melwas, King Arthur, Excalibur, Merlin, Morgan La Fey, Guinevere, Lancelot, Battle Of Camlann, the Swan, Galahad, Jesus, Joseph Of Arimathea, Holy Thorn, The Queen, Chalice Well, St John's Church, Caen Hill Locks, St Michael, William Blake, Jerusalem, The Tribunal, Judge Jeffries, King Athelstan Of England (895-939AD), Anglo Saxons, Normans, Malmesbury Abbey, Richard Whiting, Robert De Boron, Vulgate Cycle, Chronicle of the Kings of Alba, Domesday Book, Willaim Of Orange, House Of Hanover and Saxe Coburg Gotha, the City Of London, Canary Wharf, Buckingham Palace, the Mall, Charing Cross, the Strand, Parliament, London Eye, Olympic Games 2012, Dion Fortune, Geoffrey Ashe, The View Over Atlantis, John Michell, Athelstan Joseph Michael Eavis, Transition Towns, the BBC, Common Purpose, Knights Templar, Sisterhood Of The Nine Morgens...

  6. That is all very interesting, Wave. I never paid attention to when that festival is held but it makes perfect sense. Glasto was Joe Strummer's old haunt where he'd have his own Celtic fire festivals at night. If you see the Julien Temple (there's a name for you) doc on Joe all of the interviews take place around campfires.

  7. I get you. The green sun is the green sun. But, there are multiple layers or interpretations of every symbol. I try to keep myself open minded and allow for my musings to develop as they will. Besides, the BP logo is more than a simple green sun - it's a three-sun medley. I'm still curious if you have any thoughts on the White Sun.

    The night after writing to you, my friend who is big into economic cycle studies shows me a site run by a guy named Arch Crawford - a loaded name if there ever was one. Arch has on his site a link about an X-Files episode that ran on 10/13 1993, that he presumably believes was a reference to himself.

    But what most intrigued me was his prediction of a major astrological upset ("cardinal climax") for August 1st - the next marker on the Wheel of the Year.

    Then, the next day, I get on the subway and it's plastered with ads for Shell oil.

    So, it's just an intriguing set of syncs that I'm going to follow where they lead.

  8. I would like to exchange links with your site
    Is this possible?